It is now quite evident that there has been some wrong doing relating to misused tax funds...the question is to what extent?
In order to express the truth as we know it, we have decided to post this email from our "People Serving" County Controller Stephen Barron to Mark Stuart of Eckard Seamans requesting financial information which he has yet to receive.
We suspect that the records requested by Mr. Barron will prove the wrong doing.
Thank you for your response. I would have responded back sooner, but I wanted to speak directly to Bo Koltnow about your conversation. While he acknowledges that you did direct him to the billing department you also stated that Bernie O' Hare was never a client, but you did bill for advising him.
That said, who directed you to do this?
I understand you and the administration will argue this action was covered by the council resolution to pursue options to sell the home and secure that outcome. While this ballot initiative was out of the blue and was never anticipated by anyone (including me), how on earth could the argument be made that the council anticipated this? Even in your letter with the January bill (dated February 24) you state, "The ballot initiative efforts, which were not envisioned in the original projections, have front loaded some of the project costs."
Let's take a hypothetical... Assume I hired a lawyer to help me sort through what my office could do to help push the referendum and make sure the initiative was voted on by the citizens of the county (just like your firm was hired by the administration). While pursuing those ends I realized I had no standing in the matter. However, there was this group of citizens who were willing to do the same thing who did have standing (like the COAF). I direct my lawyer (hired with money entrusted to me to run my office... taxpayer money) to help and assist this group to make sure the referendum made it to the ballot. Would that be appropriate? Let's even say council passed a budget amendment or resolution providing the funds to my budget to hire this firm. The only difference in my scenario and the facts as I see them in this case is that you did not assist a group of people. It was only two private citizens.
To date I have identified over $31,000 in expenses that could be attributed to the private petition challenge, and over $10,000 of that time was just used in reviewing the petitions for defective signatures. The key part of the O'Hare/Angle litigation, I might add.
I have also reviewed the contract, request for service, the bid response and the resolution and fail to find any authority to advise in the private litigation.
As I am sure you are aware I have authority to audit under the contract you signed with the county.
At this time I am requesting all correspondences (including e-mail or electronic correspondences) with Mr. O' Hare and Mr. Angle. I would like to also review all notes, memos, documents and other items that went into the petition review and to the parties in the petition challenge litigation. If these documents are able to be scanned and sent to me in digital format that would be wonderful, but I am willing do what is most convenient to your firm.
If you are not the person who would handle this request please let me know who at your law firm I should direct the inquiry to.
I am disappointed with the evolution of this situation. When I brought this up in March there was much done to discredit my statements, and now you have acknowledged that you did bill for services provided to the private litigants and that it was somehow "authorized" by council resolution. If you did believe that in the first place why was this not the argument asserted in March?
While I understand there was a lot of emotion on both sides attached to the Gracedale issue, when one takes a step back and looks at this situation it is clear council would never give authority of this kind and would never allow a person who is not a government employee or even affiliated with Northampton County's operations to have access to legal advice and help paid for with county money (which is also taxpayer money).
I would be happy with a resolution that reimburses the taxpayers for money spent to advise in the private litigation, and would be happy to go over the billing with you, members of the administration and anyone else in your firm line by line, if necessary, to correct this issue and move forward. I don't care the source of the reimbursement, just that all funds that went to support the private litigation be refunded.
Thank you for your time. I await your response and your suggestions as to the steps you wish to take help bring this issue to a close.
Stephen J. Barron, Jr.
Northampton County Controller
The email was sent approximately a week ago with no response to date.